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Saint Petersburg, Florida, United States

The Two-Family House: The Future of Housing in the Sunbelt

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Most major cities in the Sunbelt have few if any natural barriers to growth. That is to say that in many cases there are no natural features, such as lakes, rivers, mountains, etc. that would limit growth. Cities such as Dallas, Atlanta, Houston, Phoenix, Charlotte and even Orlando can pretty much grow in any direction. The only limits would be regulation, such as urban growth boundaries established by local or state governments, or just economic conditions that prevent further expansion.

Due Volte Casa Two-FamilyHouse

However, there are a few cities with significant natural barriers. St. Petersburg is one such city. Surrounded on three sides by water, there is no room left for further expansion. The only option for growth in a city like St. Petersburg is increased density. This is very difficult to accept when much of the city itself was developed in a suburban, low-density manner, and that is what people are used to culturally. Density is developing in downtown, but eventually it will have to spread to other parts of the city in order for the city to continue to prosper and add to its tax base.

Due Volte Casa first floor plan

So how can density be achieved while still maintaining the single-family nature of most of the city? I propose the introduction of the two-family house. The two-family house looks like a single family house, but it actually is two houses in one. It is different from a townhouse or rowhouse, in that it does not have a multi-family or multi-unit look. This is also different from the main house with accessory unit, in that these are two full-size units integrated into one building. The two-family house is very common in older northeastern and Midwestern cities, but a rarity (if they even exist) in newer Sunbelt cities like St. Petersburg.

The two-family house provides many benefits to the city overall. The main benefit is that it increases density in a somewhat low-impact way. The city can still maintain much of its character in terms of architectural style and neighborhood aesthetic, while allowing for population growth. This population growth increases the need for additional services such as neighborhood-serving retail. They also provide an option for families that wish to stay in an urban environment without living in an apartment complex, townhouse or condominium.

Due Volte Casa second floor plan

So what about things like parking and private yard space - the things that most people value, and why many choose to move to the suburbs? Well, parking can still be provided in the design of the house with garages, or even reserved street parking. Open space can still be provided on site as well, by design, or residents can choose to enjoy the numerous neighborhood "pocket" parks throughout the city already in place. It might not be private, but it provides the open space needed for play and recreation. It is a trade off to be made for all the benefits of city living such as retail within walking distance, and being close to employment and cultural offerings.

So as St. Petersburg, and its counterparts in the Sunbelt, look to grow within, whether by force (natural boundaries) or by choice (government-established boundaries), then the two-family house should be an option on the table as a housing type to encourage the development of within the city limits.

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